Alex Bazzie needed a ‘clear mind’ before CFL return following NFL disappointment

Alex Bazzie wanted to make sure he had shaken his NFL hangover.

The defensive lineman signed a contract with the B.C. Lions through the rest of the season earlier this week, rejoining the CFL club where played from 2014 to 2016 before bouncing between three teams south of the border over a nine-month span.

Some players who leave Canada in hopes of catching on in the NFL have a tough time readjusting when they return – be it spite, disinterest, having a chip on their shoulder or something else – but Bazzie believes his mind is in the right place after getting cut by the Arizona Cardinals earlier this month.

“I’m most definitely past that point,” the 27-year-old said following his first practice with the Lions in 2017. “That’s what might have took so long as far as coming back.

“It was just making sure I got over that, leaving it back in the States and not coming over here holding onto grudges.”

Bazzie registered 29 sacks in 50 games for the Lions, including 11 last season, to earn a contract with the Indianapolis Colts in January.

After getting cut in May, he latched on with the Carolina Panthers and then the Cardinals, who released him at the end of training camp 2 1/2 weeks ago.

“(The) B.C. Lions organization had nothing to do with what went on with me down south,” said Bazzie, a CFL West Division all-star last season. “I wanted to come over here with a clear mind and be ready work. That was the biggest thing.

“So yes, I’m completely over that.”

An outside linebacker rather than a defensive end in the NFL because of his stature, the six-foot-one, 228-pound Marshall University product said he learned a lot of technique from Cardinals counterparts Chandler Jones, who has 50 sacks in five-plus seasons, and Markus Golden, the owner of 16.5 sacks in his first two years.

“Timing up the hands, setting up your man and when to do your counter move,” Bazzie explained. “Those little things that I didn’t quite have a good feel for. They helped me advance and become a better player.”

He also got a harsh introduction to realities of the game’s business side.

“It’s crazy,” said Bazzie, who also had 83 defensive tackles during his first stint with the Lions. “One thing I did learn, and it’s universal all over, is no matter how good of a player you are, when it comes down to needing a certain position or having no depth at a (different) position, they’ve got to be able to do what’s best for the team, not what’s best for that one player.

“You’ve just got to take that under the chin and say, ‘I did what I was supposed to do.’ That’s just the business aspect of it. You can’t let that bring you down.”

The Silver Spring, Md., native – who tied for fourth in the CFL in sacks last season, but had just one over his last nine games including the playoffs – joins a team that has just 18 quarterback takedowns and 62 pressures, good for second-last in the league in both categories.

“Alex was very candid about wanting to return,” said Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono. “We felt he could give us a shot in the arm defensively.

“One thing we can do is put more pressure on the quarterback, and he can do that for us. Alex knows the system. He fits in right away.”

Bazzie, who had offers from other CFL teams, returns at a critical juncture for the Lions (6-6) ahead of Friday’s home game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-9) with B.C. in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996 in the ultra-competitive West.

“They’re a great group of men to be around,” Bazzie said. “I wanted to go somewhere where I was comfortable, somewhere where I was familiar with everything around the organization and within the scheme.

“I’ve got better with my craft. I just can’t wait to put it to the test.”